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No Quarter: A Roake Heist Excerpt

Posted on February 13, 2012 by Flames

We have an exclusive excerpt from No Quarter: A Roake Heist by John Wick. A combination of dark fantasy and noir adventure, No Quarter is the first volume in the Roake Heist series. It is available now in eBook format at DriveThruFiction.com.

Roake is no hero. He’s a bad man in a bad world. A world of sorcerers, crowded cities, corrupt nobles, eldritch assassins and big payoffs. Someone hired Roake for a simple break in, but the job went sour, and now, Roake is looking for revenge. More than revenge. Roake wants the payoff he was promised. And if anyone gets in his way, they’ll find out what “no quarter” really means.

No Quarter: A Roake Heist Part One

    When the fat man saw Roake’s face, he tried to run. The fat man didn’t make it.

    Roake moved fast, grabbing the fat man by his collar and pulled. The fat man hit the plank boards hard and made a small noise. Then, Roake put his foot on the fat man’s throat and stood there, and watched the fat man choke.

    He let up the pressure just a little. “Tell me,” Roake said. “Tell me the name.”

    The fat man’s eyes bulged. His face was almost purple.

    “Tell me,” Roake said again. “Or it will take all night for you to die.”

    The fat man tried to speak but his words only came out in sputters. Roake picked the fat man up and slammed him into a chair. The fat man held one hand to his throat. He nodded.

    “A man in a mask,” the fat man told Roake. “I don’t have a name,” he said.

    “Rich?” Roake asked.

    The fat man nodded. “Smelled like honey. He smelled like honey.”

    Roake stood within an arm’s reach of the fat man. He turned to look behind the bar. “Anything I want back here?”

    The fat man nodded. “A whole week’s worth,” the fat man said.

    Roake went behind the bar. He found a metal box. “The key,” Roake said.

    The fat man took a key from around his neck and threw it. Roake caught it and opened the box. Paper and coins inside. Roake took all of it. Then, he walked around the bar back to the fat man.

    “You know something,” he said. “Something you aren’t telling me.”

    The fat man shook his head. “I swear. I don’t know nothing.”

    “Pull down your pants,” Roake said.

    “Whuh?”

    “Pull down your pants. I’ll start there. Work my way up. Until you talk.”

    The fat man’s face went pale. His jaw trembled. Roake took one step toward him and that’s when the fat man started talking.

    Roake had next to nothing.

    The fat man could not tell him anything he didn’t already know. The coin and paper he took from the fat man’s till was enough to get by for a few days, but nothing more. He needed working money and he needed information and he needed them now.

    He found himself a dirty inn on the south side of the city, near the docks. The woman who ran the place gave him a room key and he slid her some of the paper from the fat man’s till. He climbed the stairs, opened the door and looked in. The room was a closet with a bunk. He moved the bunk sideways so the foot of it was against the door. Then, he rolled the dirty mattress up and used it for a pillow while he slept on the floor.

    This was better than sleeping on the street. He would not have been alive by morning if he tried bedding down there.

    When he awoke, his back was sore and his neck hurt. He rearranged the bed so he could leave then walked down the stairs and out the front door.

    He bought some pastries from a vendor with the coins in his pocket. Already, his cash was running low. Last night, he needed answers. Today, he needed to get home.

    He moved down Cascade Street then turned left by the old, cracked fountain. Up the stairs to River Street and then down the cobbled road with no name. He owned one of the rooms at the top of the building there. He had no key. He lost that three months ago. In fact, he suspected someone would be sleeping in his room right now. Three months with no paper meant his landlord would have given the room away and sold everything in it to pay for the back rent.

    Roake stepped into the building and climbed the stairs to the top floor. He looked at the door that used to be his. He listened there for a while but heard no sound. He put his foot against the lock and kicked hard. It broke.

    He moved in fast, knowing the interior well enough to move with certainty. His back was against a wall immediately, giving him a look of the interior from a place of safety.

    The place did not look as he remembered it. Most of it was his—a fact that surprised him—but everything was in the wrong place. There were also new items here and there he did not recognize.

    He moved through the rooms fast, his large hands clenched and ready. He walked through the hallway to what used to be his bedroom. It was still a bedroom, but the man sleeping there was someone he did not recognize. Nor was the woman lying next to him. Roake wondered why his entry did not wake them. Then, he saw the small bottles next to the bed and the stubs of stinking black cigars and he knew why.

    Roake moved slowly now. He could take his time. He wondered if the two of them ever bothered looking under the bed. He knelt down on his side and reached under it, finding what he was looking for. Apparently not.

    He removed the long knife quietly. Then, he looked around the room for what he needed. He used the knife to cut long strips of cloth from the clothes lying around the bed. Then, he used the strips to tie the woman’s hands and feet. She objected slightly, still asleep. She mumbled “Javis, stop that,” through what sounded like numb lips. Then, he did the same to the man. He didn’t object at all. He just giggled a little.

    When he was done, Roake picked up a pitcher of water from the kitchen and brought it back into the room. He poured the water over the man’s face. When the man awoke, Roake covered his mouth with one hand while showing the knife with the other. The man panicked, trying to shout, but then he saw the knife. Roake didn’t need to say anything. He looked in the man’s eyes. They were still blurry from last night’s entertainment.

    Roake nodded at him. “Hello, Javis,” he said.

    The man he called Javis started for a moment. Roake could see the man’s thoughts behind his eyes. How does he know my name?

    “Doesn’t matter, does it?” Roake said, answering the man’s quiet question. “All that matters is I’m here and I have a knife. And you are in no condition to do anything about it. Is that right?” Roake paused. “Just nod, Javis.”

    Javis thought for a moment and then nodded.

    “Right then,” Roake told him. “How long have you been in these rooms?”

    Javis stuttered a few times before he got the words out correctly. “About two months,” he finally said.

    Roake pointed at the shreds of clothes with his knife. “Those are not rags there. Silks. You must come from the Upper City. That right?”

    Javis hesitated.

    “Dunna lie to me, Javis,” Roake said. “I have a knife. You are tied up. And your woman over there can’t even wake up. And nobody’s going to come help you in this part of the city.”

    Javis nodded. “Yes,” he said.

    “You rent this room to bring women down here to the Lower City. Impress them with your secret criminal side. Is that right?”

    Javis nodded again. Roake could see tiny flicks of anger starting to form in Javis’ eyes. He was being humiliated. Even in private, that was a bit much for him.

    Roake was hungry. He thought about leaving Javis here, but decided against it. He picked the young man up and threw him over his shoulder. Roake carried him into the kitchen and sat him at a table. Then, he opened the pantry and looked at the fresh fruits and bread. Roake sat down and ate in front of Javis as he thought about what to do with him.

    He could use Javis to get back into the Upper City. He could also blackmail him. Javis looked young enough. He was probably still in the academy. Renting a room like this—along with that little jar and the black cigars—would be enough to get him expelled. But extortion was risky. Roake didn’t like risky.

    The man probably had paper. And he might have the information Roake wanted. He finished cutting up the fruit with his knife then talked to Javis while he ate.

    “Do you know who lives in 22 Fruit Dove Court?” Roake asked.

    Javis creased his brow. “What do you mean?”

    “What is the name of the man who lives in 22 Fruit Dove Court?” Roake asked again.

    “No man lives there,” Javis told him.

    Roake chewed on the fruit and pulled a bite of bread off the loaf. “Is it abandoned?”

    Javis shook his head. “No, only the man who used to live there is dead now. Only his widow lives there.”

    Roake nodded. “That’s right.” He ate more fruit. “What’s her name?”

    “Lady D’Auterville?”

    That was not the name Roake was told. “Are you sure?” Roake asked.

    Javis nodded. “Yes. Her husband was killed three months ago in a robbery…” his voice trailed off as he watched Roake. Then, he said, “You were the one who killed him?”

    Roake didn’t answer that. He kept eating bread and fruit.

    “Murderer!” Javis yelped.

    Roake raised his knife at Javis. “If I’ve done it once, it means I could do it again.” Javis did not shout again.

    “Tell me,” Roake said, finishing off the bread, “what the widow D’Auterville has been doing since her husband died.”

    “I do not see any reason I should tell you a thing,” Javis said.

    Roake stood and walked across the kitchen away from Javis. He returned with a bottle of wine. He uncorked it and drank the wine straight from the neck. Then, he put the bottle on the table.

    “This is what is going to happen, Javis,” Roake said. “You will tell me what I want to know. If you know it. If you know something I want to know and do not tell me, I will go into that room and ask the woman the same questions. She will tell me. Do you know why? Because I will show her your dead body and tell her that you died because you wouldn’t answer my questions.”

    Javis looked at Roake from across the table. His eyes were less foggy now. Less frightened. The man was calculating. Roake didn’t care. He knew the man would talk or he wouldn’t. It didn’t matter at all to him.

    Javis must have seen that in Roake’s eyes. He sagged a little in the chair, his arms still bound behind him.

    “I’m thirsty,” he said. Roake stood up and got a cup. He filled it with water and put it to Javis’ lips. The man drank. Then, he talked.

    When the woman woke, she was far less drugged than her male companion. And far more angry.

    “Who do you think you are?” she said, her voice dripping with poison. “Do you know who I am? Do you have any idea what I can do to you?”

    Roake didn’t need to answer, so he didn’t. He looked at her naked body but it did not inspire him.

    “I don’t need anything from you,” he said. He knelt down, cut her bonds with his knife and pointed at her clothes. “Get out of here.”

    Her eyes showed protest, but then changed. She recognized the opportunity and took it. She gathered her clothes and stepped toward the door.

    “What about him?” she asked.

    “Do you really care?”

    She paused for a moment. Then, she said, “I need his carriage to get back.”

    “I’m not stopping you,” Roake told her.

    She moved toward the door again. Stopped again.

    “You are looking for something,” she said.

    He sat down with an apple. “It would be best if you left.”

    She smiled and walked back into the room. “I don’t think so.” She sat on the edge of the bed, her clothes still in her arms. “I think I’d like to stay.”

    Roake looked at her. She seemed resigned. He shrugged and said nothing. She found the thing was looking for in Javis. The real thing. She was staying.

    Roake didn’t care. He finished his apple, got up and started looking through his old furniture. The drawers were empty. All of his clothes were gone. He went to one in the corner of the room. He pulled the middle drawer completely out and reached deep inside. He found what he was looking for and took it out.

    “What’s that?” she asked.

    Roake didn’t answer. He opened the envelope and withdrew the paper inside. He counted it. Nothing was missing.

    “I could help you,” she said.

    Roake looked at her.

    “I could. I heard you talking with Javis in the kitchen. I know a lot of people in the Upper City. And I could get you in without any questions.”

    He considered her for a moment. What did she have to gain from this? She was young and pretty. Not beautiful. She accepted an invitation from a man she barely knew to come down to the Lower City. She was wealthy and bored. She was looking for an adventure.

    “I’m not an adventure,” Roake told her.

    “No, you’re not,” she said. “You’re something else entirely.”

    “I don’t need any help,” Roake told her and started walking out of the room.

    She stood up. “Lord D’Auberville was a Senator,” she said. She was speaking quickly. “He had a lot of enemies. He was also a man who liked women. A lot. Maybe a bit too much. Rumor has it his wife arranged his murder and made it look like a burglary to cover her own tracks. Rumor also has it that Lady D’Auberville is more inclined to the caresses of women than men. And she’s very devoted to her maid.”

    She was sitting naked on the edge of the bed. In the other room was the man who brought her to this place. Roake stood and closed the door.

    She wasn’t in the bed when he woke. He stretched his limbs and back, pulled himself out of the bed. The scars on his chest were still fresh and they ached. Roake put on his pants, walked across the room in bare feet into the kitchen. She was there.

    She was clothed, perfumed and smoking a black cigar. When she saw Roake looking at it, she offered it to him. He shook his head. She didn’t say anything.

    Roake stepped over to Javis. He knelt down. “She’s going to use your coach,” he said. “Take her back to the Upper City. Never come back here.”

    Javis nodded. He didn’t say anything.

    Roake got back up. He looked at the woman. She smiled through the smoke. She got up and took Javis by the arm, leading him out the door. She stopped for a moment.

    “Jocasta,” she said. “What do I call you?”

    Roake opened the door and said nothing.

    After she left, Roake went back to the bedroom. He got dressed, pulled his hair back and tied it. Then, he went to the washroom.

    A little later, he was on the street. It was early morning and the merchants were selling. The smell of baked bread and pastries barely covered the piss and shit from the morning buckets.

    Beggars crowded on the walks, each of them with hands out. Some of them had all their fingers. Most were soldiers, crippled in the War. Roake never recognized any of them because he never looked close enough.

    He passed by two Black Guards, wrapped in their dyed robes and silver bindings. The wound in his shoulder ached as they went by. Roake looked and saw them carrying crossbows. Behind their masks, he couldn’t tell if they were the ones he met. He walked a little further, then thought about following them.

    No. There was no point. And he had other things to do. He kept going.

    Later, when he passed under the shadow of the Wizard’s Tower, his wound ached again. He walked a little faster and got clear of it.

    When he reached his destination, he knocked on the door. A squalid copper merchant’s shop. A peephole slid open and a single eye looked out. “Roake,” a voice that belonged to a toad said.

    “Gange,” Roake said. “Let me in.”

    The eye didn’t blink. “No, Roake,” he said. “You’re supposed to be dead. The fact that you aren’t means trouble. And I don’t allow trouble in my store.”

    Roake raised the envelope and put it up close to the peep hole. The eye looked at it. Fingers reached through and tugged, but Roake didn’t let go.

    “I’m no fool, Gange,” Roake said. “Let me in and you can see it.”

    The eye blinked. “Very well,” it said. The peephole slid shut, the door unlocked and opened, and Roake stepped inside.

    Roake walked through the little shop, not looking at the bronze cups and decanters. He followed Gange to a little, dirty carpet on the floor. Gange lifted it and Roake saw a place in the floor that you would never see unless you were looking for it. Gange lifted that and Roake followed the bent little man down the crooked stairs leading down into darkness.

    At the bottom, Gange lit a lantern. The oil stank up the room quickly. “It keeps away the ghosts,” Gange said.

    Roake heard the Tower used ghosts to find men like Gange. He didn’t know whether to believe the rumor or not. But Gange was the kind of man who believed in safety and secrecy. That, at least, Roake could appreciate.

    In the little room, Gange took tarps off the weapons and tools. Roake looked them over, one by one.

    “Looking for something in particular?” Gange asked.

    Roake shook his head. “No,” he said.

    “That doesn’t sound like you,” Gange told him.

    There was nothing to say to that. Roake picked up a knife. Short enough to be hidden up the sleeve. Long enough to cut through a man. The balance was for thrusting, not throwing.

    “Like that one?” Gange said. “It was on a man who died escaping the Black Guard. They didn’t find his body.”

    Roake asked, “Why did the Guard want it?”

    Gange smiled. He had more fingers than teeth. “It’s enchanted, of course. A bleeding blade. You make an injury with that and the cut will never heal.”

    Roake held the blade in both hands. He put it back down. “How much?” he asked.

    “Three thousand,” Gange said. Roake just looked at him. “A valuable weapon. A revenge weapon. I can’t just let it go.”

    Roake nodded. He took out the envelope. “I have one thousand in here,” he said.

    “That’s two thousand too little,” Gange said, smiling. “So sorry.”

    Roake reached into his pocket and withdrew a golden ring. He showed it to Gange.

    “Will this cover for the rest?” he asked.

    Gange’s eye opened wide. “It might…” His voice trailed off as he looked at the ring.

    Roake waited for the little man. He looked around the shop.

    “There’s a small enchantment on the ring, you know,” Gange said. Roake turned and saw Gange had lifted his eye patch. The red eye under the patch gleamed in the dim light. “A very… oh.”

    Gange clenched the ring in his hand. “Yes. Yes. This will do. It will do very well.” Gange smiled again. “In fact,” he said. “It more than covers your debt.”

    “Good,” Roake said.

    The little man stepped over to the tables. “Here,” he said. “It came in the other day. It made me think of you.” His twisted fingers lifted something small from the table. He put it in Roake’s hand. “Keep this on you. Keep it in your pocket.”

    Roake looked at it. “Why?”

    “For luck,” Gange said. “It was marked at the founding of the City. By the first Emperor. The fool who sold it to me had no idea what it was.”

    Roake thought about the ring he just handed over.

    “It’s yours. A good trade. Trust me, Roake.”

    Roake did trust him. Gange was always fair with him. Even if he was a bit superstitious. A bit cryptic. What could you expect from a man who spent ten years in the dungeon under the Tower?

    “Good,” Roake said. “We’re done?”

    Gange nodded. “We’re done,” he said.

    Roake followed the man to the stairs leading back up into the bronze shop and put the coin into his pocket.

    Roake had a little money left. Just enough. He ate fresh meat and drank hot wine. Then, he put his mind to murder.

    He sat in the pub, his plate and glass empty. The serving girl took them away. He did not look at her. She asked if he wanted anything else. “More wine,” he said. She nodded, walked to another table and asked the same questions.

    Roake felt the cold of the knife next to his body. The magical cold. Enchantment. He thought about that for a while the girl refilled his glass.

    A man came into the pub and started looking at the faces. When he saw Roake’s, his eyes brightened. He almost jaunted over to the table.

    “Saints be damned, I never thought I’d see you again,” the man said. “You lucky sonofabitch, I heard you were dead.”

    Roake shook his head. “Lucky,” he said. “Sit down.”

    The man sat down. His name was Briggs. He and Roake worked together in the past. On the night in question, Briggs was working in the South City. Lucky for him.

    As Briggs sat down, the serving girl walked by with a plate of meat. Roake pointed at his plate. She put more cooked meat on his plate. Roake didn’t thank her.

    “How many made it out?” Briggs asked.

    Roake shook his head and ate more meat. “None of them,” he said.

    “Damn.” Briggs looked down at the table. “Bather? Udun? Raythe?”

    “None of them,” Roake said. He drank more wine.

    “Damn,” Briggs said again. He looked up for the serving girl. She was across the room. He shouted, “You got any mutton?” The girl nodded and went to the kitchens.

    “And wine!” Briggs shouted after her. Then, he looked back at Roake. “Sour job, then? Coopered ken?” he asked.

    “No,” Roake said. “We got in easy enough.”

    “Why’d they all get wooden coats?” Briggs asked.

    “They were waiting for us.” Roake looked up at Briggs. His eyes were dark.

    The serving girl brought by the meat and wine. Briggs smiled at her. “Thank you, dear.” She shrugged. When she was gone, he asked Roake, “You get the drop?”

    Roake shook his head.

    “Whole crew gets served lavender and no drop. That’s a fine way to go out.”

    “Upper City,” Roake said.

    “Should have glassed that,” Briggs said. “No Upper City jobs for me. Ain’t none of them sweet enough for me.”

    Roake stopped eating. “I got an Upper City job,” he said. He waited. Briggs chewed on the meat for a moment or two before he noticed. Then, he swallowed the meat.

    “No,” Briggs said. “You ain’t that crazy.”

    Roake didn’t say anything.

    “Damn the saints, Roake. No.”

    Roake didn’t say anything.

    Then, Briggs nodded. “I get it,” he said. “I get it.”

    “You do?” Roake asked.

    “Yeah,” Briggs said. “You’re gonna crack the same crib that almost got you killed the first time.”

    Roake didn’t say anything. He picked up his knife and finished off the meat on his plate.

    They paid the serving girl a coin for a private room. She led them to the back of the tavern, up a flight of stairs and to a locked door. She gave them the key.

    “More wine,” Briggs said to the girl. She nodded and left them alone.

    When the door closed behind her, Roake opened his satchel and took out a long roll of parchment.

    “What’s that?” Briggs asked.

    Roake didn’t answer. He unrolled it and put cups on the corners. Briggs looked down. “A map?” he asked.

    “No,” Roake told him. He pointed down to the bottom left hand corner of the map to the symbol in the corner. “Mason’s Guild,” he said. “Original plans.”

    “Damn,” Briggs said. “Where did you pinch this?”

    “It was given to us,” Roake said. “The fat man gave it to us as part of the job.” He pointed then to the basement. “Here,” he said, “is a grating that leads to the sewers under the City. It’s only locked. A quick job.”

    “All you’d need would be a bolt cutter,” Briggs said. “Or a screwsman.”

    Roake nodded. “We had a screwsman. He popped the betty easy.”

    “What was it doing down there?” Briggs asked him.

    A knock on the door. Briggs went to the door and Roake moved to stand in front of the map. The serving girl brought more wine. “And bread,” she said. Her other arm had a plate of it.

    “Thanks, love,” Briggs said. He gave her another coin. She turned away and Briggs locked the door again. He put down the bread and chewed on a piece. Roake ignored it. Briggs said it again: “Why does an Upper City mansion have a grate leading down to the sewers?”

    “A slumming hole,” Roake told him. “A way to get out of the mansion without being seen.”

    Briggs nodded. “That makes sense,” he said. Then, he laughed. “They obviously don’t know what’s going down in the sewers, then.”

    Roake didn’t say anything to that. He pointed at the map again.

    “We were told where the safe was. Up here,” he said. “Up here in the master bedroom. Behind a portrait.”

    Briggs frowned. “That’s not what the plans say.” He pointed at another room on the third floor. “This is the safe.”

    Roake nodded. “I know. We were told the safe was moved in case the plans got into the wrong hands.”

    “That doesn’t make any sense,” Briggs said. “I mean, it does make sense. But I take it the safe wasn’t there?”

    Roake shook his head. “No,” he said. “But Lord D’Auberville was.”

    Briggs paused. Then, he said, “Word is Lord D’Auberville was murdered.”

    Roake nodded, but didn’t say anything.

    Briggs looked at Roake. “What happened up there?”

    “It got sloppy,” Roake said.

    “That doesn’t sound like you.”

    Roake shook his head and poured another glass of wine. “It wasn’t me. Wasn’t my job. The fat man put it together. I didn’t pick the crew.”

    Briggs nodded. “Why did you go?”

    Roake shrugged. “I needed the paper. The job sounded good. Quick in and out.”

    “But that’s not what happened.”

    Roake shook his head. “No,” he said. “That’s not what happened.”

    Briggs thought about it. “All right,” he said. “So why go back in?”

    “A few reasons,” Roake said, pointing to the map. “We can check the grate. Even if they changed the lock, a screwsman can still pop it.”

    “What if it’s bolted?” Briggs asked. “What if they’ve changed things since you got in?”

    “We’ll check it,” Roake said again. “They expected the entire crew to be dead. They think we all died. They aren’t going to cover their tracks now.”

    Briggs nodded. “All right.”

    “Another reason,” Roake said. “We know where the safe is. Right here.” He pointed at the map.

    “What if the safe is filled with stones?” Briggs asked. “We can’t move stones.”

    Roake shook his head. “Lady D’Auberville’s been seen selling a lot of gold and diamonds. Apparently, her husband almost drank the house under. She’s been selling off the valuables to pay off his debts.”

    “How do you know that?” Briggs asked.

    “Someone told me.”

    Briggs waited for more, but didn’t get any. He shrugged. “All right. It sounds solid. But a house full of guards and servants…”

    Roake shook his head. “They’ve cut down on the servants. And the guards.” Roake went back to his satchel. “And we’re going to crack it on a special night.”

    He pulled a piece of paper out of the satchel and showed it to Briggs. Briggs looked at it. He looked back up. “Birthday party?” he asked.

    Roake nodded. “A house full of strangers. They’ll all be downstairs and in the gardens. Nobody will be upstairs.”

    “All right,” Briggs asked. “But we’re coming in from the sewers. How are we going to get up from the sewers to the third floor without being seen.”

    “They’ll see us,” Roake said. “They just won’t notice us.”

    Briggs thought about that for a moment, and then he smiled.

    “How much in the safe?” he asked.

    Roake said, “As much as we can carry.”

    “What kind of crew?” Briggs asked.

    “We need a screwsman,” Roake said. “That’s why I got you.” Then, he looked at the map. “One more. To help carry and watch.”

    “Three?” Briggs asked. “That all? I’d bring one more.”

    Roake shook his head. “Only three. Each of us has a job. The other two can look. That’s all we need.”

    Briggs frowned. “Seems too tight.”

    “It’s a fast job. In and out.”

    “That’s what you said about the last one.”

    Roake nodded. “This time’s different.”

    Briggs thought about it. “You could do it with three. I’d prefer four. But I guess we could do it with three.” He picked up more bread. “Who were you thinking of for the third?”

    “Someone you worked with on your last job,” Roake said. “Who did you like?”

    Briggs put his hand on his chin. “Tinsen. He was good. Talked a lot, but he shut up when it was important.”

    “We need someone who can carry,” Roake said.

    “He’s not a big fellow,” Briggs said. “But he’s strong. He was a soldier. A pikeman.”

    Roake nodded. “If you vouch for him, he sounds good.”

    “I know where to find him. He’ll like working again so soon.”

    Roake rolled up the plans. “Do that. Meet me here again tomorrow.”

    “When’s the party?” Briggs asked, picking up the invitation again. “Two days. Not a lot of time for planning.”

    Roake shook his head.

    Briggs said, “Just tell me one thing, Roake.” Both men paused. “Tell me this isn’t about revenge.”

    Roake looked at Briggs. “I needed the paper before the last job went sour. I need it more now.”

    Briggs spent a moment watching Roake’s eyes. Then, he said, “I remember now why I never play cards with you.” He stepped back one step. “If I smell something sour, I’m out. You know that.”

    Roake put the parchment in his bag. “That’s fair.”

    Briggs nodded. “Tomorrow then.”

    “Tomorrow.”

    Briggs left the room. Roake finished his wine and grabbed a piece of bread. He locked the door behind him and went down the stairs and out into the City.

    She was wearing a slumming cloak: a thick, dirty canvas thing that hid the finery beneath it. He heard the knock on his door and opened it, and she was there.

    “I brought what you needed,” she said.

    Roake asked, “Where is it?”

    She turned her head toward the street. “In the carriage.” She smiled. “Javis’ carriage.”

    He nodded and followed her down to the street.

    The carriage had black canvas over the doors to hide the crest. He opened the doors and found luggage inside. Large, hard-sided bags.

    “The livery is inside the bags,” she said.

    Roake nodded and grabbed the bags. They were heavy and he needed to make two trips to get them all. He looked around as he carried them. This late at night, nobody would be watching. At least, almost nobody.

    She followed him up to the room on the second trip. He put down the bags on the bed and opened them while she shut the door behind them.

    The uniforms were real silk. He laid each of them out on the bed.

    “I brought four of them,” she said. “They’re very large. I hope they fit.”

    “They don’t need to fit,” he said. “We won’t be getting that close to anyone.”

    She sat on the edge of the bed. “Tell me again,” she said. “Tell me the plan again.”

    He looked at her. She was getting excited. “No,” he said. “And you aren’t staying tonight.”

    She frowned at him. “Why not?” she asked.

    “You’re a partner now,” he said. “You’re in on the job.”

    She pouted a little, putting out her thick lower lip. “After the job?” she asked.

    Roake considered lying to her. He said, “No.”

    A shadow crossed her brow. “Once and you’re done with me, then?” she asked.

    “Don’t do this,” he said. “Two more days and all this will be over. Then, we’ll think about other things.”

    She smiled a little. “So, your ‘no’ just turned to ‘perhaps?’”

    Roake didn’t say anything. He let her assume his answer.

    She popped back up from the bed. “Twenty percent of whatever you take, yes?”

    He nodded. “Yes,” he said. “That’s your cut.”

    She curtseyed. “Thank you, sir.” She said. “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night.”

    Then, she pranced to the door. She opened it, turned to look at him quickly and closed it behind her.

    Roake looked back down at the livery and the bags. Then, he watched out the window. She hopped into the carriage and the carriage drove away.

    Roake didn’t want to kill her, but she was making that decision for him.

    Tinsen was built like a fort: short, squat and made of stone. His head just reached Roake’s jaw.

    “Briggs says you’re square,” Tinsen said. He extended his hand. “If Briggs says it, that’s good enough for me.”

    Roake fingers were lost in the man’s grip. He looked at Briggs.

    “You said we needed a carrier,” Briggs said, smiling.

    “Good,” Roake said.

    They were back in the private room. The serving girl dropped off meat, cheese, bread and wine. The soup was already gone. All three men looked at the plans.

    “I see,” Tinsen said, looking them over. “We could do this a couple ways.”

    Roake nodded. He took a bit of chalk and began writing on the parchment. He could erase any errors they made that way.

    “We come up from the cellar,” Roake said. “Through the servant’s quarters.”

    Tinsen shook his head. “Servants look at other servants,” he said. “That’s no good.”

    Roake looked at the map again. “There’s no other way up,” he said.

    Briggs sipped some wine. “We could do it if we were quick.”

    “No good,” Tinsen said. “We’d have to come up and go back down. Once is risky enough.”

    “We arrive late,” Roake said. “All the servants will be on the first floor or in the garden.”

    “Not all of them,” Tinsen said.

    Briggs nodded at Roake. “Most of them.”

    “Enough of them.”

    “Just like before?” Briggs asked.

    Roake nodded. He drew a line with the chalk. “We arrive after the party has started. Late enough so most of the guests are drunk.” The line went from the serving quarters to the main stairwell. “Up here,” he said. He was drawing as he talked.

    Roake circled a flight of stairs. “The servants’ stairs can carry us up to the third floor.”

    “Out of sight of anyone who matters,” Briggs said.

    Roake circled a room on the third floor. “This is where the vault is.”

    Briggs squinted at the map. “Behind a wall?”

    Roake nodded. “Behind a wall.”

    Tinsen didn’t like that. “Do we know where behind the wall?”

    Roake shook his head. “No, we do not.” He pointed at a symbol on the plans. “This means there’s a key. If there’s a key, there’s a lock. And if there’s a lock, we can get by it.”

    “That means me,” Briggs said.

    “What if it’s an enchanted lock?” Tinsen asked. “What then? A screwsman isn’t going to get us by an enchanted lock.”

    Both Roake and Briggs smiled.

    “All right,” Tinsen shrugged. “You can pop a magic betty, I’d like to see it.”

    Roake started again. “In the vault, we grab the paper. Leave the coin. We pack it into the luggage. Then, we carry the luggage back down the servants’ stairs, back down to the cellar and out the slumming hole.”

    “What about the carriage?” Tinsen asked.

    “We use that if we need to.” Roake told him.

    All three men looked at the plans. They were quiet for a long time.

    “There’s a lot that could sour this job,” Tinsen said. “We get spotted by curious guards or chatty servants. Briggs can’t pop the betty. We get nabbed, there will be a whole unholy host of nobs bringing pain down on our heads.” He shook his head. “We can’t let anyone see us.”

    Roake nodded. “No one will.”

    * * *

    No Quarter: A Roake Heist is available now at DriveThruFiction.com.

    This excerpt was provided by and is being published with express permission from the author.

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